A New Kind of Nursery of Truth – Part 3

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the third of a three-part series on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*

For a quick recap, in the previous post, I suggested that those who consider themselves politically/theologically progressive can get caught in a cycle of thinking of truth as facts stripped of any emotion, narrative, or even joy. If this is anywhere near an accurate assessment then the next step is to invite you, my dear readers, to consider becoming people who utilize ethical and creative storytelling, humor and other similar methods, such as what Stephen Duncombe calls “Ethical Spectacles,” to subvert dominant narratives and to serve social justice. Telling the truth slant and or being purveyors of the “pert near true” (something that is so true that it doesn’t really matter whether it happened or not) is something that can and should be used in service for the good, just as Jesus himself exemplified.

In this final post, I want to suggest a few, very limited, ideas about what we might do to create a new kind of nursery of truth for today, where we could learn these practices together in community.

A New Nursery of Truth

How do we take all of this into account and really begin to re-envision a nursery of truth for today?

Are there ways in which we can respond to polarizations, speak into pluralistic spaces and be far more creative in our approach to truth?

If we are to be publishers of truth today (or the “pert near true” if you like), we need a nursery of truth that takes into account the many challenges we, and the people in our communities face in these times of racial injustice, religious bigotry, class struggle, and attacks on LGBTQ+ people. One that understands that any claims to truth must really be able to account for and be in solidarity with those most vulnerable.

How do we publish this truth, and more importantly live it, in ways that are effective and shape a new generation’s imagination and practice? Continue reading A New Kind of Nursery of Truth – Part 3

The Challenge of “Truth” – Part 2

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the second of a three-part post on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*

Truthiness In All Its Beauty

In this second part, let’s look at what some of the challenges are to having a new emergence of publishers of truth today. I see at the very least three:

  1. Polarizations
  2. Whose Truth?
  3. The Role of Fantasy

Let’s take each in turn.

Polarizations

First, when we look at contemporary culture we have a serious truth problem. As I was preparing for this presentation, I was thinking back through some of the ways in which truth has been used, hijacked, and manipulated recently.

Revisioning_the_Nursery_of_Truth.jpg

The most current examples are around fake news and alternative facts. Algorithms within social media make it easy for folks to be stuck within cloisters and once we’re mostly surrounded by people who look, think and feel like us, it is very easy to control a narrative with memes and other newsy-looking blog posts and articles that are really fake news.

Fake news is bad enough, but when you reinforce it with a sense of community, where everyone you know is consuming the same kind of messages you get the potential for quickly spreading falsehoods and dangerous behavior. Continue reading The Challenge of “Truth” – Part 2

The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1

Revisioning
Photo Credit – Eric Muhr

This is the first of a three-part post on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*

The following two parts will be posted in the coming week. Therefore, the links are currently “dead.”

Some of you are already familiar with the idea behind the historical “Nursery of Truth” (and here is a link to a more contemporary version). The idea comes from early Quaker history. As Friends were traveling from Britain to the colonies they often stopped off in Barbados where there was a large amount of Quakers at the time. According to Elbert Russell, it was shortly after 1656 that Barbados became a “major distributing point for most Friends.” As early as 1657 Friends there received a letter from George Fox about his concern for the enslavement of people by those living there.

Barbados

It became a kind of gateway into the colonies for many traveling Quaker ministers. As missionaries, early friends knew the importances of training and preparation in the truth before heading to America to spread Good News and establish more Quaker meetings. By 1661 George Rofe calls it “the nursery of Truth” (Russell 1979: 39). The nursery of truth was a spiritual nursery where Quaker missionaries and ministers went to grow, be nurtured and pruned.
Continue reading The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1

A Radical, Liberation Christian Quakerism

noun_964988_cc.pngAs with many, I have been wrestling to understand where the various new groups forming within Quakerism fit – as with the New Association of Friends in Indiana and the new groups discerning their way forward in North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. Will they just be replicas of the institutions that kicked them out, or is there space for something truly new to emerge?

In the very broad base of Quaker categories what we have today in the United States are two main theological trends: secular liberalism and conservative Evangelicalism.  On the one side, there is a group that now seems to be largely influenced by the secular left. These yearly meetings and meetings may be “spiritual but not religious,” think of themselves as secular or even anti-religious, while still being interested in the “values” of Quakerism or some of its specific practices, like communal silence and consensus building. Not everyone within these groups identifies this way but the larger trend seems to suggest that there is far more emphasis on this “secular liberalism” than the socially aware Christianity that one can find within these groups as well.  Continue reading A Radical, Liberation Christian Quakerism

Re-Reading the Bible with Peterson Toscano

Last week we had the privilege of hosting Peggy Senger Morrison (more on her coming) and Peterson Toscano, a comedian, biblical scholar, performer and LGBTQ advocate, at Guilford College this past week. Peterson became a Quaker after spending 17 years “conversion therapy trying to de-gay himself.” When he tells the story he often ends with talking about how wonderous a failure all of that was and how surviving all of that as a gay man has changed his life and ministry forever. 

Because of his Evangelical background, Peterson knows his bible very well. And even though he experienced a lot of pain through the ex-gay movement and how the Bible was used against him, he has retained a love for Scripture. It is this love for Scripture that felt important to draw your attention to today. Peterson’s work around the Bible is inspiring, intellectually rigourous, and creative. 

On Friday, I invited Peterson to come speak to my contextual theology class about gender roles in the Bible. Not only did he engage the students through very active “bibliodrama” as he calls it, having the class act out parts of the Bible to help them “get into the story,” but he talked positively about different people in the Bible who transcended or transgressed gender norms in their time and context. His main focus for our class was on the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8, a story about a person who transcended both gender and class norms and who is a central character in the life of the early Church. It was clear to me that Peterson’s approach of reenactmenting Scripture and reading it off-center is what T. Vail Palmer, Jr. calls, an “Empathetic” reading of the Bible, two tactics that really open up possibilities for experiencing the story in new and really powerful ways.

Peteron’s new DVD, “Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” is perfect for a church or meeting wanting to have a bible study around different ways of reading the Bible and I cannot recommend it enough. 

You can learn more about Peterson on his website.

Here is more info about the DVD Transfigurations.

Here is a blog post from Peterson on the Ethiopian Eunuch

And if you are interested, I’d encourage you to search around on YouTube for some of the videos of Peterson leading Bible studies.

God as a Weaving Pattern | Quaker faith and Practice

We may picture God as weaving a pattern with the lives of men and women. We can glimpse but small fragments of the whole design; in moments of inspiration we can see more clearly, while the saints see most of all. Through it there runs a Quaker strand. It may be only a single thread but it is not insignificant, for without it the pattern would be marred. Yet that thread of itself does not make the whole design. The Society of Friends is but a part of the Christian church, and the measure of truth which it possesses may only rightly be considered in relation to the whole. The work of the Church in the world today is surely not something to be carried out in miniature by each part, but it is a mighty whole to which each should contribute according to its special gifts and strengths.

-William G Sewell, 1946 (Source: 27.16 | Quaker faith and practice)

The Quaker Value of Integrity as Practice

Over the next little while, I want to reflect in short statements about what is often called, Quaker Values or testimonies. I prefer the singular “testimony,” but that is for another day. For today, here is a brief though on integrity.

The practice of Integrity is about both self-awareness and wholeness. It is born out of a community of practice committed to living integrated lives. Practices and language develop out of that commitment that gives tools for understanding the self, my relationship to God and other people, the natural world, and material objects. A practice of integrity provides a kind of self-reflective mirror upon which I am invited to look at myself and my community and reflect upon whether my “Yes is yes,” and my “No is no.” A practice of Integrity requires me to participate in honest assessment of all areas of life consistent with our practice of worship and understanding of what God calls us to. This consistency is about having the inside and outside line up. I do not believe that we should use integrity as a claim upon another human being if I am not in constant practice of investigating my own life under the same searching light.  To do otherwise would itself lack integrity. Integrity is about truthfulness. It is something we constantly strive for and yet never fully arrive at. Thus, I believe that to strive for wholeness is to be vulnerable; there is a confessional quality to integrity. I claim my own integrity with great trepidation as I recognize that there is often a gap between my reality and that which I strive for but if I undertake it within a caring community, I can trust that together we shall be under this work of love together.